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VIII The Two Little Bates Girls
They were not at all alike and they were not even sisters—those two little Bates girls. One had curly light hair and the other had bobbed-off black hair. One was slender and the other was plump. One had blue eyes and the other had brown ones and both were as different as different could be, though the names of both came upon Miss Kennedy’s school roll one after the other; first Mamie and then Mary.

Mary had light curls that bobbed in a lively way even in arithmetic class, where everything was rather subdued by hard problems that Miss Kennedy set. Mamie Bates had bobbed black hair that had a way of falling over her forehead when she was bending over work—in brief, Mary Bates was lively and Mamie Bates was not. Mamie Bates acknowledged that arithmetic was about the hardest[Pg 104] thing in school but Mary Bates said it was easy, even though Miss Kennedy’s blue pencil went over her paper and made big blue crosses that meant “Wrong” as often as they crossed the papers of Mamie in the same way.

It ought not to have been so. Nevertheless the first quarterly report that Miss Kennedy made out for Mamie and Mary Bates ranked them side by side—seventy-six percent! That’s not a high mark; Miss Kennedy shook her head over both marks. It was surely nothing to be proud of!

Mary Bates refused to show her report.

Mamie Bates hung her head woefully and explained that she had tried the best she knew how—which was right. Both of them decided to try even harder next quarter. And they did try. Mamie Bates mounted up to eighty percent, and in one examination, she achieved eighty-three! “Next time,” urged Miss Kennedy, “see if you can’t make it eighty-five!” Mary Bates did not tell her mark. It may have been that she was ashamed of it or it may have been that she did not want to brag. Nobody knew which.

But when Mamie Bates went home, she[Pg 105] told her daddy all about that eighty-three percent and her daddy smiled and said, “Well, if you’ll make the next one ninety instead of eighty-five, and if you’ll keep all the other marks above eighty-three after that, by the end of the next quarter you shall have—What do you want most?”

“A pony and a cart,” laughed Mamie.

“A pony and a cart,” repeated daddy. “A real live pony and a basket cart!”

Hooray! Think of it! Think of it—a pony and a pony cart! That was the way things stood with Mamie Bates during the last quarter of the year in Miss Kennedy’s room. The black bobbed hair fell over her eyes more industriously than ever as she bent over her problems in arithmetic. In the margins of Mamie Bates’s examination and test papers each Friday there began to appear such delectable written words as, “Well done, Mamie.” But the big blue crosses didn’t quite disappear—oh, no!

Mary Bates continued to keep her marks to herself. Very rarely did she show any. Those that she did show weren’t so bad as some of the other girls’ papers. But there[Pg 106] never seemed to be “Well done, Mary,” on any one of them. Even though there was nothing of this kind, Mary Bates seemed contented with them. She said she had received ninety-five in deportment and that was about the best mark that anybody could ever receive. Miss Kennedy would never give a higher deportment mark. Even Sallie Roberts who was noted throughout the whole class room for being “awfully good” never received a higher mark than ninety-five—but then, only the very bad scholars received less. Mary Bates also said that she had a splendid report in spelling. She didn’t say what, but everybody knew that she could spell. So could Mamie.

And so the time went by each week nearer and nearer to Mamie Bates’s excited anticipation of that pony! The marks, so far, had been all right. Daddy would have to keep the promise! Toward the end of the quarter every girl in the class was wondering if she were going to pass herself. It all depended upon the final tests. Even Mary Bates admitted that she was a little shaky but not much. She thought she knew it all.

[Pg 107]Mercy! How Miss Kennedy’s class did drill! Over the old, old stumbling blocks they went with long pieces of yellow scratch paper. It did seem as if everybody must pass the arithmetic test! Then the week of examinations came and with it the worst dreaded of all, arithmetic examination!

Over this, Mary Bates shook her curls soberly. Mamie Bates struggled with black hair falling over her forehead. And then the time was up and papers had to be handed in. Mamie Bates gave in her paper reluctantly. Her cheeks were flushed. As soon as it had gone, she asked if she might look at it again, just for a minute. Miss Kennedy smiled. She didn’t let her. “Time’s up, Mamie,” she admonished. “What’s done must stay—it isn’t fair to the rest, you know.”

“Yes, I know,” returned Mamie, “but you see the pony and pony cart depend upon it. The others aren’t working for so much.” But Miss Kennedy passed on. Everybody in the class knew of daddy’s promise and hoped Mamie would win that percent in her arithmetic—everybody.

Mary Bates brought her paper to Miss[Pg 108] Kennedy’s desk without even waiting for it to be collected. “I’m sure I got everything right,” she chirped. “It was easy! I think I’ll get ninety-five! There’s only one thing that might be wrong.”

Sallie Overton nudged her neighbor. “I don’t ............
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